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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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VJ VJ eCommerce Director

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Why Online & Offline Marketing could be best partners in crime

During my last trip to my homeland Germany, I discovered how far ahead we are here in the U.S. in regards to consumer behavior and the online research we conduct around our potential car buying clientele. Don’t get me wrong- websites for German automotive dealerships exist. But as far as execution, when you see how inventory is displayed (or should I say, not displayed), how inconsistent the OEM message is portrayed on the dealership website, or why a URL name is chosen and not marketed in their off-line marketing approach – I am stunned!

These numbers become even more impactful when I share with you this research data from the current TNS Digital Life study. In this study, TNS looked at the global view of buying behavior. In this example, allow me to dissect the U.S. data based on the automotive consumer. I want to share how advanced the American online consumers are at using the web to evaluate your merchandise. It will reveal their preferred and “important decision making hubs.”

The research I am reflecting on will be split into 3 articles and released one-by-one over the term of the next 3 weeks. I hope that I will create some tipping points and brain teasers for you over this 3-week period, allowing you to reflect on your current marketing mix and what you ought to try out to find the right recipe and outcome for you.

Unpacking the Path to Purchase DATA POINTS; Part 1: The question was: “How do we decide to buy?” and “How do you become aware of a product?”

Fact: There is massive opportunity for brands to be discovered online. Although some marketing myths out there suggest that consumers won’t listen to advertising and marketing messages any longer, the data clearly shows that during the Awareness Phase, a consumer will follow a brand or product (average 3.1) onto the online path (3.5) to gather more information. The brand message here is the most influential mind trigger to get consumers interested.

When prospects finally narrow down their “chosen product,” they still will research their desired car make and model online (3.0) rather than looking into off-line generated sources (1.2) What’s interesting is the fact that in the final decision “Where to buy” the Brand Voice (with an average of 2.3) still is more influential than the Consumer Voice; here with an average of 1.2.

VJ’s Question: Does that mean that aligned OEM Brand messaging and your marketing approach as a dealership should be synced?

VJ’s Answer: “You betcha.” As these numbers indicate – the more touch points your online marketing message has, the more you will be involved somehow in the consumer’s decision making process. As TNS states in their research: “Brands need to pinpoint accurately the most influential touch points on and offline to ensure that they maximize their presence and impact across different media.”

What I would love to see (and actually did, when I was still in the dealer operations) is that each seasonal or special event message of your OEM, like the “Sign Then Drive Event” or the “December to Remember Event” campaigns will be adapted on a smaller scale into your dealership.

It starts with your website message (using the original OEM images for the event) all the way to adjusting your SEO content with the “slogan” inside your content pages, up to the signage inside your brick and mortar location (yes, you heard right – offline will in this case close the circle). Also when you send your internet lead responses, integrate the OEM Event message with links back to your website event page. You can even instruct your receptionist to ask “Are you calling for our Sign Then Drive Event,” and create table toppers inside your service waiting area and the desks of your sales people stating and using the original OEM Marketing message.

Last word: “Your store needs the same impact on and off-line. Shoppers need to get the same message and impression of the brand in both the real and virtual world, to engage rather than alienate,” according to researchers of TNS Digital Life.

  • Part 2 of this series will take a look at the importance of the “Consumer Voice” next week – until then, happy selling and do the right marketing.


Jim Bell
Great post VJ. Too many times do you see a national program not even be mentioned on the dealers' website. They all need to sing out of the same hymn book and reflect the same message so that there is limited confusion. Great points. Looking forward for the follow up posts.
Bryan Armstrong
I agree to a point. However, to many OEM's advertise leases and prices on cars that are nearly IMPOSSIBLE to obtain and it often leaves the Dealer looking like the liar or taking a significant loss.
Agreed Bryan. I would love to see the core products or so called "bread and butter" goods more emphasized other than cars, we know as dealers will have a order status of plus 45-days out. Thank you Jim for your compliment and yes, "AGREED" here as well, that there are still dealers out there not even mentioning one bit about the current OEM specials - especially to year-end-events. Jim, Bryan...I love you guys for being true car professionals and giving me always input on my thoughts here! Happy Holidays to you!

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